A Costa Rican Mardi Gras Extravaganza

Written by Megan Hettwer

Directly translated Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French, and it refers to the practice of indulging before Lent begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras tends to conjure up images of crazy celebrations, particularly of the New Orleans variety. But don’t be fooled- we also celebrated the event this past Tuesday here in Costa Rica.

Yes, you read that correctly! On Tuesday March 8, 2011 Playa Flamingo hosted its own Mardi Gras float parade and celebration. All of us at Abriendo Mentes were thrilled to join in on the fun. With a team of thirty kids and volunteers we decorated a beach-themed float for the parade. As if a fun parade wasn’t incentive enough to participate, we were also getting “points” toward acquiring Playa Potrero’s status as a Blue Flag beach. Floats were also charged a fee to participate, with all of the proceeds going to local charities and nonprofits. We owe a huge “thank you” to Las Catalinas and Jorge Mendez for donating the money for our entrance fee, as well as to Las Catalinas again for donating the use of their truck for our float!

One of the floats featured in the parade- Marie’s Restaurant.

The day began normally enough. The volunteers and students met in the Salon to begin the decorating process. We cut waves out of the blue posters the students had painted the day before, blew up tons of balloons to tie around the truck (accidentally popping quite a few along the way), and painted some awesome signs.

The students and volunteers worked together to get the float decorated quickly.

Upon completion, we loaded up the truck with volunteers (in addition to 3 ‘regulars,’ we also had 12 UNC students with us for the week!) and the students rode with Meradith and Drew. We began the drive and reached Flamingo, but then our driver kept going, and going, and going…all the way past Brasilito! We finally realized what was going on and made the trek back to Flamingo, arriving just in time for the parade to begin. Phew!

The beginning of the parade.

The procession of floats began driving down the road, with music blasting, people dancing, and candy being thrown everywhere. The students had a blast throwing candy to the crowds following the floats, and the crowds had an equally great time scrambling to see who could grab the most candy.

Some of the volunteers from UNC staffing the float and throwing candy!

Johnny and Drew representing AM!

After a long and sweaty march from the Banco Nacional to Flamingo Beach the parade was finally over, and we gathered the kids to head back to Potrero. Everyone had a great time, and this time we even made it to our destination without getting lost!

The students were more than happy to spend the afternoon participating in the Mardi Gras parade!

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